How to clean a computer system fan

Updated: 12/30/2019 by Computer Hope
Dusty and dirty computer fan

Cleaning a computer system fan, whether it is a CPU fan, case fan, or power supply fan, requires some care and the right product. Below, are the steps and suggestions for cleaning the fans in your computer to help keep your computer running cool and efficiently.

Caution

While inside the computer, make sure it's off and you're familiar with ESD (electrostatic discharge) and its potential dangers.

Caution

When cleaning a PC fan, it is best to make sure the fins of the fan do not spin. Keep the fins in place while using canned air or the vacuum/duster to prevent damage and make it easier to remove the dust.

Clean fans with compressed air

Compressed air can

The first option for cleaning computer fans, or any computer part in general, is with canned air designed for electronics. This type of canned air is designed to be static free, helping prevent damage to computer components. Using canned air made for cleaning electronics is the safest approach, and the cheapest.

Tip

When using compressed air, try to position the computer in a way that helps the dust and dirt escape the computer and not move somewhere else in the case.

Clean with electronic vacuum

The second option is a small electronic vacuum or electronic duster. These devices are designed to reduce the chance of static generation or discharge, helping protect electronics like canned air for electronics.

Caution

Use caution when using a vacuum that plugs into the wall. These vacuums generate ESD, which could damage your computer. Whenever using these types of vacuums, remove the fan from the computer.

Clean with a damp cloth

If the computer is around a smoker, the fan may look like the fan shown in the picture on this page. In this situation, it's usually best to moisten a cloth with water and rub the fan down. We also highly recommend removing the fan from the computer when using a damp cloth.

Steps in cleaning

Once you've decided what you're going to use to clean the fans, open the computer case and locate the fan you want to clean. In most situations, you're going to need to remove the fan so that both sides of the fan can be cleaned. If the CPU fan connects to the top of a passive heat sink, it must be removed to clean off the dust.

After disconnecting the fan from the computer, hold the fins of the fan in place using your fingers. Then, either blow the dust away using compressed air, suck up the dust with an electronic vacuum, or wipe away the dust with a damp cloth.

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